Few of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s residents are native to the area, which is true for almost any military town. As the saying goes, “Home is where the Marine Corps sends you.” MCB Camp Lejeune and Onslow County are currently home despite where you are from. We drive these streets in our new community every day. There is a rich history at MCB Camp Lejeune and every road tells a story.
Upon arriving through the Wilson Gate, a left turn on Bougainville Drive leads to Tarawa Terrace. The Bougainville campaign was a series of land and naval battles of the Pacific campaign of World War II between Allied forces and the Empire of Japan, named after the island of Bougainville. It was part of Operation Cartwheel, the Allies’ grand strategy in the South Pacific.
The first attack on Bougainville occurred on Aug. 15, 1943. The Marine Fighter Squadron 214, later known as the Black Sheep, flew up from the Russell Islands to barrage the Kahili airfield during American amphibious landings on the island of Vella Lavella. The lightning strike, a surprise so complete the Japanese did not have time to shoot back, damaged aircraft and refueling equipment on the ground.
The landing of the 3rd Marine Division at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville took place Nov. 1. The forces consisted of 14,321 troops who were met with several obstacles. The Japanese defenses of the beaches were stronger than anticipated. The 40,000 troops on the island were thought to be stationed mainly around the airfields, and the extensive system of bunkers in the jungles were not accounted for.
The Marines who landed west of the Koromokina River met steep slopes and shoals on which they lost more than 80 amphibious craft. Those landing east of the Koromokina were caught in crossfire from machine guns. A small contingent of Marines knocked out the gun emplacement on the cape and the 3rd Marine Raiders captured the island. The landing force drove away the rest of the Japanese defenders while the war dog platoon sniffed out snipers along the trails.
In spite of the resistance and two Japanese air assaults launched from bases on Rabaul during the day, the Marines succeeded. By nightfall, all 14,000 troops, together with 6,200 tons of fuel, rations and ammunition were landed along a 200-yard perimeter.